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FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2012 Jan;36(1):59-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1574-6976.2011.00296.x. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Fungal development of the plant pathogen Ustilago maydis.

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Institute for Microbiology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany.


The maize pathogen Ustilago maydis has to undergo various morphological transitions for the completion of its sexual life cycle. For example, haploid cells respond to pheromone by forming conjugation tubes that fuse at their tips. The resulting dikaryon grows filamentously, expanding rapidly at the apex and inserting retraction septa at the basal pole. In this review, we present progress on the underlying mechanisms regulating such defined developmental programmes. The key findings of the postgenomic era are as follows: (1) endosomes function not only during receptor recycling, but also as multifunctional transport platforms; (2) a new transcriptional master regulator for pathogenicity is part of an intricate transcriptional network; (3) determinants for uniparental mitochondrial inheritance are encoded at the a2 mating-type locus; (4) microtubule-dependent mRNA transport is important in determining the axis of polarity; and (5) a battery of fungal effectors encoded in gene clusters is crucial for plant infection. Importantly, most processes are tightly controlled at the transcriptional, post-transcriptional and post-translational levels, resulting in a complex regulatory network. This intricate system is crucial for the timing of the correct order of developmental phases. Thus, new insights from all layers of regulation have substantially advanced our understanding of fungal development.

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